The battle between the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics on Saturday night at Philips Arena proves how tables can turn – and turn quickly.
After trailing by 15 points at the half, the Celtics went on a 33-9 tear in the third quarter to spoil Atlanta coach Larry Drew’s mood after receiving the NBA’s Coach of the Month award.
After his team won 10-of-15 last month, including four in a row before losing to the Houston Rockets on New Year’s Eve, the Hawks’ coach was given the honor for games played during December. But then the Hawks went on to drop three of their last four games, including this latest 89-81 decision to Boston.
“This was a very, very disappointing loss…probably for me, the most disappointing of the season,” Drew said.
Atlanta came out fired up in the first half, and so did guard Lou Williams. Williams, a sixth-year veteran from Georgia’s South Gwinnett High School, made his first six shots in the first quarter, including three 3-pointers, for 16 of his season-high 28 points. Williams also had four 3-pointers in the second quarter to help the Hawks take a 53-38 advantage into the halftime break.
But whatever happened inside the Boston locker room during intermission had a definite impact.
Led by Paul Pierce’s 17 third-quarter points, the Celtics took over. Pierce hit 6-of-9 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the perimeter to lead the coup in the second half and for a game-high 26 points. Celtics guard Rajon Rondo also contributed 10 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists in second half to finish with his second triple-double – 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists – of the season.
And while Boston was turning the tide, the Hawks were drowning.
Atlanta could only manage a meager nine points in the third quarter and were outrebounded 44-38 on the night, including 16-8 on the offensive boards. Josh Smith went 0-for-5 during the quarter.
In comparison, Atlanta outscored the Celtics 24-12 in the paint during the first half, but the Hawks were shutout 12-0 in the lane in the third. The Hawks also hit only 2-of-14 shots from the field and went 2-for-9 from beyond the arc during the period. They also committed seven turnovers.
Jeff Teague had 17 points for the Hawks and Smith finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Kevin Garnett had 14 points for Boston.